Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Briggs has joined an exclusive club within an elite group.
Briggs and his partner, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Lemma, were honored Monday morning, the day after winning the David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning.
Briggs, like Lemma, is assigned to the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade at Fort Benning. The 38-year-old soldier, who has had four combat tours, becomes only the third person to win the competition twice in its 32-year history.
Briggs, then teamed with Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Santiago, won the competition two years ago. He joins Master Sgt. Walter Zajkowski, who won in 2007 and 2011, and Master Sgt. Eric Turk, who won in 2010 and 2011 paired with Zajkowski, as a multiple winner.
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Lemma offered high praise for Briggs’ determination and drive.
“It was unbelievable,” Lemma said. “I have never seen anything like that — the strength, will. I don’t even know how to put it into words. It’s amazing. I just followed. I fell down a few times out there. I just kept going.”
The two men survived a 62-hour event designed to recognize the best of the best. They moved more than 60 miles on foot during the event.
The two men competed against each other the last two years and were selected to compete together a couple of months ago.
“We trained really well together the last eight weeks,” Briggs said. “We read each other pretty well. Jeremy is a great communicator. He let me know where he was at. I let him know where I was at.”
At the end of the day they were the best of the 51 teams that started the competition. Less than half the field — 24 teams — finished.
The two men acknowledged that they likely won the event in the way they trained. The training consisted of three to four hours a day of constant movement, Briggs said. They also worked on technique and tactics.
“When we would get it right, we would say, ‘Good, let’s do it again,’” Briggs said. “When we would get it right again, we would say, ‘Good, let’s do it again and get it faster this time.’ It was relentless.”
Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of Fort Benning who has spent 31 years in the Army, mainly in the Special Operations community, was impressed by what he witnessed.
“I know you guys do not think of yourself as anything special,” Miller said to the 48 men who completed the competition. “I saw you come in last night and you were humbled and a little embarrassed by the applause. You need to understand the impact and inspiration.”
Miller said he is still processing the first Best Ranger Competition he has seen.
“I watched perseverance beyond what I expected,” he said. “I watched some people who didn’t make it to the finish line, but I didn’t see anybody quit. ... There were 102 competitors, then there were the rest of us.”
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey presented Briggs and Lemma with matching Colt pistols.
Dailey said the competitors inspired him to do extra PT (physical training) Sunday night when the event concluded. He called them true athletes.
“That is what soldiers need to see,” Dailey said. “That is what is so great about the Best Ranger Competition. It inspires — not just the Ranger community — to work hard and go out and do your best every day.”
The Best Ranger Competition comes the week before women will enter Ranger School for the first time. Dailey was asked if he expects women to compete for Best Ranger one day.
“Absolutely. I welcome it,” Dailey said. “We are an Army of change. We have to change. We have been changing for 239 years. And if we don’t change, we’ll fall. We have to continue to be adaptable, truly flexible. The chief of staff of the Army has clearly said that he needs adaptive leadership for a complex world. ... I am excited for that day and I know we will see that in the future.”